Gabriel Cabrera

Lockdown Action Plan: Ideas To Reignite Your Photography Business

Hi friends, strangers, and sexy lurkers. Hope you are doing well during this whacky AF lockdown times. As all the memes have said it in a very poetic way: this Black Mirror episode is too freaking intense! My adrenals have been squeezed to the point of looking like shrivelled squirrel nuts (you decide which nuts).

I know our overall mood and creative energy feels depleted and we feel anxious about what the future holds, but now more than ever is time to jump into action to safeguard our business. We cannot control the current global situation, but what we can do is plan ahead. We can realigning our goals to protect and boost our business. Use the fear, panic, anxiety, uncertainty, and alertness to fuel your determination to keep yourself afloat. If you keep your wheel turning (even if it’s slower turn than usual) you help to keep all of our wheels turning too.

I am going to share with you a little action plan plus some ideas to reignite your photography business. Some may even apply to other creative endeavours, so feel free to adapt them to your plans. Feel free to send any or all of these ideas to other creatives struggling or feeling overwhelmed with cancellations,  looming bills, and other what-in-the-flying-fuck things sponsored by Corona-V.

So here’s a Lockdown Action Plan for ya:

1. The Overall Picture:

Take a deep breath. Turn off the news, social media, and other distractions and take a hard look at your business. Have you had cancellations? Are your sessions on hold? How many expenses do you have coming up? How’s your revenue? Got any savings? How long can you last in business? Ask all the questions. You cannot make an informed decision and move forward if you do not know the current state of your situation.

We will use this information later in the plan to get your action steps going.

2. Mitigate

Right now I see lots of photographers say their sessions have been cancelled, left, right, and centre. Lessen the blow by jumping ahead of hard cancellations and email any current or upcoming clients and ask about their situation and offer to reschedule  the session, but NOT  to cancel.  Even if they already cancelled, try to work it out and schedule it for later or even as pending. Anything but a hard cancellation.

The first reaction to panic is to stop and cancel everything - instead - offer guidance to your clients to wether the storm and reassure them you’ll be there once they get back to business. Being proactive is better than just saying “Ok! Bye! Call me when you’re open again” and leave everything hanging in uncertainty.

You know the saying: “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”, well yes don’t bite it, but also you should be holding that hand to support it (virtually or 6ft apart), moisturize it, and show the hand why they hired you .  Don’t be fake (that just looks thirsty), just be honest with them! We are all going through the same fears right now.

3.  Client List

Compile a list of clients (recent and past) so you can figure out your communication strategy. I would suggest you divide the list into categories based on the type of work you can do for them: social media content, e-commerce, product, small editorials, etc. 

You should also make a note of how soon you can contact them: within 4 weeks (e.g. local clients may need help and content sooner so they can keep their business going), within 5-8 weeks (product photography, which can be shipped once things open again), and later on, seasonal (e.g. Travel content which is an industry that would take a bit longer to stabilize and adjust to changes in the market).

One thing to keep in mind is to give time for your clients to adjust and gather their thoughts (don’t spam them while they’re making hard decisions about their future).  That’s why planning ahead pays off; once they are back you can contact them and they’ll be more than happy to hear you have fresh ideas and a plan to help each other out.

Times like this show us that it’s all about trust - and that goes for everything: your friends, family, and also your clients. You want to ensure that their investment in your work is worth it.

4. Build Your Timeline

A classic 30-60-90 timeline works to get you started. Now that you have mitigated any potential hard cancellations, you have a client list, and you know the state of your business you can go ahead and plan your next move.

While you wait for your clients to find their bearings (and you give yourself some time too), go ahead and do the following:

- Draft emails for each type of client you selected

- Revise your rates. What kind of rates are you going to offer? Any incentives? Retainers?  Have your options ready and do the math. Put it down in a nice document which you can attach to your emails.

- Prepare ideas: what ideas are you going to offer to your client other than “hey hire me”. Come up with concepts, money saving ideas (e.g. re use props?), and any strategies that would help them bring in business using your images.  Create looks or mood boards so they can visualize it; you can use apps or sites like Canva, Niice (, or Adobe Comp on iPad. Have a template and use it for all your clients.

- Think of any add-ons that could help: short videos, boomerangs, BTS shots, gifs. Think of how you can maximize your client’s money so they can get the most out of your work. You’re not giving it all away for free; you’re giving an add-on service which translates into trust and longer client partnerships.

- Cut your costs: cancel any non-essential memberships (Adobe is offering free memberships for some time), don’t spend money on new props you don’t need (it’s easy to go shopping online when you’re idling at home), if you’re leasing equipment - talk to them, maybe they’re offering differed payments (or could pause them). $300 you save now could be $300 you spend renting equipment for a new gig.

Finally here’s a list of ideas I thought could be helpful to get some revenue happening:

  • Product photography: once shipping and distribution centres are back (some cities have shut them down) you could get product shipped to you. You can shoot it at home or by yourself at your studio and get paid for it.
  • Editorial content: still life images, vignettes, lifestyle. Many of these can also be done at home or the studio by yourself. The client just needs to provide you with a list of things and you can order them or get them done with the stuff you already have.
  • Prop swap: sanitize your props and ask local photographers if they wanna do a temp swap of props. This way you get to work with a new stash of things without spending money (save as much as you can now for your rainy day fund). 
  • Editing and post production: this is a smaller pool of work, but some high end commercial photographers and others that had work up until the lockdown, could use a hand editing images. The rate for post production is hourly and could supplement your income. Also offer it to friends and others; you never know! Some people may want a personal photo to be edited professionally. 
  • Photo restoration: if you’re good at photoshop, you could offer to restore images. I bet so many people are doing spring cleaning right now are finding old photos and whatnot. They could scan the images and send them to you so you can work on restoring them.
  • Dig your archives for potential goodies: digging into your archives could yield a new angle, a different setup or arrangement of a session you already shot for a client. Create a package of these “B Side” images and perhaps your clients would be interested in purchasing them. Businesses need content now more than ever to post and make sure people know they’re still around.
  • Ebook with friends: partner up with other photographers and create an ebook with info about how to take better photos, lighting at home, editing, etc. There are business owners that may not be able to afford you right now, but they would buy the book to get the work done while they get back on track. Don’t worry, you won’t lose them, but you may be helping them to stay afloat, which translates into them hiring you back at some point. Also go for volume of sales VS high prices (e.g. sell your book for $25 rather than a $400).
  • Online coaching: depending on your level of expertise, you could do a little online coaching session (again you could partner up with someone). Coach in the field you feel the most confident: some love accounting (like wtf, no judgments haha),  some business strategy, and others post production and editing. You have many many skills, you can spread them and use them individually to help you get extra dollars.
  • Prints: though this is a bit of a bigger task, you could start small with sites like Society6. Create a series of still life images or other content that could be sold online

There may be quite a lot of uncertainty out there, but you give yourself some peace of mind if you spring into action and create a plan, that way you’re not just wondering around - you’ll have a new define path to work on.

Channel the fear and let it catapult you into greatness! (Hey Oprah, you hearing this?)

Stay safe and see you around the interwebzzzzz!




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